Decadal scale projection of changes in Australian fisheries stocks under climate change

Project Number:




Principal Investigator:

Beth Fulton

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Adoption, Communities, Environment, Industry


Australia's oceans are undergoing rapid change (4) , with two of the world’s most rapidly warming ocean areas located in the south-east and south-west (5). Understanding what that change means for fisheries and aquaculture production and management is paramount if the resources are to continue to be sustainably managed. The growth in understanding of climate impacts is a rapidly expanding field. The CSIRO’s OFAM models now have high resolution simulations available at a resolution of 0.1 degrees (~10 km) that run from the current day to the end of the century, an improvement over the snapshot period of 2050-2060 that was available just 2 years ago. Observations of historical change are also accumulating rapidly, and inform the species vulnerability assessments. While there have been previous climate impacts studies (6, 7) these are aging rapidly and must be updated if management bodies and other stakeholders are to make the best-informed decisions, a must for climateproofing our fisheries. Given the current revisions of the harvest strategy and bycatch policies and the imminent commencement of a project specifically looking at how to climate-proof Australian fisheries management, updates of the existing models and a synthesis of the new information is needed. This project will also enable all stakeholders, particularly industry, to become more engaged in the fishery effects of climate change which have biological, economic and social implications. The finer spatial and temporal scale information now available combined with information on species of commercial and recreational interest mean that previously ‘theoretical’ climate futures can now be visualized in a way that matters to stakeholders – area by area, decade by decade. Such a capacity will lead to better engagement with stakeholders and support adaptation planning by fisheries around Australia. 4. Gattuso JP, et al (2015) Science 349 aac4722. DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4722 5. Hobday AJ, Pecl GT (2014) Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 24: 415. doi:10.1007/s11160-013-9326-6 6. Brown CJ, et al (2010) Global Change Biology 16: 1194-1212. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.02046.x 7. Fulton EA, Gorton R (2014) Adaptive Futures... CSIRO, Australia. pp 309.


1. Synthesis of existing climate vulnerability information and communicate this to management and other stakeholders

2. Update CSIRO held Australian ecosystem models with the system status information and the latest climate impacts information

3. Run ecosystem projections out to 2050 using the latest Australian OFAM models (i.e. latest physical projections), noting ecosystem and species level effects at 5 or 10 year intervals/averages

4. Distill the fine scale (where possible species level) projections for the Australian EEZ from the FISHMIP model repository.

5. Provide advice on (i) likely impacts of climate in the short, medium and long term; (ii) information gaps and priorities for tracking climate impacts on individual fisheries.

6. Provide output from modelling as input to FRDC Project [FRDC 2016-059] "Adaptation of Commonwealth fisheries management to climate change"

Decadal scale projection of changes in Australian fisheries stocks under climate change

Final Report
ISBN: 978-1-4863-1108-8
Author(s):Elizabeth A. Fulton, Alistair J. Hobday, Heidi Pethybridge, Julia Blanchard, Cathy Bulman, Ian Butler, William Cheung, Leo Dutra, Rebecca Gorton, Trevor Hutton, Hector Lozano-Montes, Richard Matear, Gretta Pecl, Eva E. Plagányi, Cecilia Villanueva, and Xuebin Zhang
Date Published:March 2018

Australia's oceans are undergoing rapid change and changes in fish distribution, abundance and phenology have been widely reported. A first step in ensuring that the fisheries of Australia adapt effectively to climate change is an understanding of the historical and projected changes in the species captured. This information will underpin development of industry and management responses and management systems that will allow negative impacts to be mitigated and opportunities that arise to be seized. 

This project takes two approaches to understanding climate impacts on species that are captured in Australian fisheries - species sensitivity analysis (Part 1) and ecosystem modelling based on new climate projections (Part 2). Species level responses for each of the Commonwealth fisheries are detailed in both sections, followed by a concluding synthesis and list of recommendations (Part 3).

Keywords: Sensitivity analysis, Vulnerability, Ecosystem modelling, Climate variability, Adaptive management